Making Thanksgiving Our Own

A Time for Reconnection and Family Traditions.

Some may say it's canceled. Maybe it should be. But when we speak to many people today, what stands out is how Thanksgiving has naturally evolved beyond its origins, and taken on special meaning through unique traditions across families.

Celebrating Abundance

In alignment with the fall harvest season, Thanksgiving is a time to reconnect with loved ones and celebrate what we have to share around a communal meal. There may be traditional turkey and cranberry sauce, parades, turkey trots, breaking wishbones, and for many, football games.

But the general theme of “gratitude” we associate with Thanksgiving also invites us to make this holiday our own, even for those who might be trying their hand at celebrating for the first time. For many families, this time of year on our calendars represents a too-rare opportunity to truly slow down and think about what we are grateful for. Some of us might even draw out these reflections throughout the days of fall.

A Festive Fusion of Traditions

Looking at the many Thanksgiving stories generously shared by our community, it soon became apparent that this is a holiday that inspires many of us to get creative, embrace our roots, and even combine traditions that are unique to one’s family and culture.

For Eddie, Thanksgiving has become a “best of both worlds” blend of both Canadian and Korean traditions.

“When we have meals like Thanksgiving, it'll kind of be half the ‘traditional’ Thanksgiving, like turkey stuffing, potatoes, and we'll also have rice and kimchi and sometimes a stew . . . I think anyone who's probably a minority or has a different background probably does this too. I think that's really beautiful. It's a really fun and homey way to celebrate a rather Canadian holiday or tradition.”

Grace also looks fondly on Thanksgiving celebrations as a mix of cultures — a tradition she hopes to carry on.

“Thanksgiving is always so full with Asian-inspired West Indian foods. And it's just like a huge mismatch of culture. When I come to the dinner table, I try to emulate that for my guests as well.”

For Jenn, Thanksgiving is the favourite holiday in her family, the one that can’t be missed.

“My dad takes all the kids out to a movie so that they stay out of the kitchen (I have the best memories of this as a child, and it has continued with him taking his grandchildren to the movies). When we get home, our job is to set the table. The plates are a mix of my grandmother's, my aunt's mother's, and my parents porcelain dishes. The table decor also includes paper turkey napkin holders that we made with my aunt a decade ago (every year one needs a quick mending) and some turkey salt and pepper shakers that have been around longer than I have! I love that these pieces come back every year to dress our one long table that spills into the living room (no kids table at our house!).”

Perhaps most beloved of all, is the family’s famous stuffing, a food that has come to represent shared cultural roots and history.

“This Thanksgiving stuffing, after 50 years of evolution, probably has as many thai flavours in it as it does typical New England ingredients. It's a true fusion of all the cultures that have touched our family, and it changes slightly but gets more delicious each year.”

For Emily, this time of year is seen as an opportunity to fuse the many traditions of fall into a single celebratory day.

“Thanksgiving has become a 2-in-1 holiday celebration in my family. Somehow Halloween got thrown into the mix one year when I was a kid, and the tradition has kept going ever since. Before dinner, we’ll split into teams and carve jack-o-lanterns. The designs are kept secret until a big reveal, and you’ll often see people running through the house in search of odd costume props to add. We light candles in the lanterns and sit them in a row outside the dining room window so we can admire them as we share a special meal together. It’s a bit odd to mix these holidays, but I think we’re just so happy to all be gathered under one roof that we want to do it all.”

For Jon, Thanksgiving is about appreciating the bonds that tie us together, and letting loved ones beyond traditional family circles be part of special days.

“A normal family get-together is I'll have aunts and uncles and cousins, and then like a good friend of a cousin who's been coming to family meals for years . . . The thing that feels most normal to me is extending the boundaries, like not just limiting to family. This is a small group of people I share DNA with, but kind of expanding it to people who've been here throughout their entire lives.”

How do you celebrate?

Thanksgiving is a time that holds the most meaning when we can make it our own and cherish the ties that bind us together with family — whatever family might look like for you.

We love how some initiatives, like The Great Thanksgiving Listen, use the spirit of this holiday to encourage people young and old to capture memories with loved ones. We also invite you to spark meaningful conversations around the dinner table this year by exploring our Conversation Tools’ Thanksgiving question pack.

 

What unique traditions make Thanksgiving meaningful for your family?? Share in the comments below!